Common magento SEO issues and solutions

Common magento SEO issues and solutions

Over the past few years a lot of Magento sites belonging to small startups to large enterprise commerce businesses have come into action. During this time a lot of technical issues have been sited, most of them common on the Magento platform.

If you look from an SEO perspective and do not know what you are doing, Magento can be a total nightmare. This is why we have written this article to guide you through some issues.

Layered / faceted navigation issues

Layered or faceted navigation is the most common reason for causing duplicate content issues that Magento faces, as filters that append query can string parameters and create duplicate variations of the pages.

One of the biggest mistakes that retailers make in e-commerce SEO is, changing the dynamic convention that the URLs and Meta titles are based on, hence; effectively make the URL look clean and make the title tag slightly more targeted. Though, this is not a good idea for it leaves the website susceptible to the Google Panda, which specifically targets websites with larger amounts of pages that have very little unique content, among other things.

Some Resolutions :

AJAX navigation

By using AJAX navigation you can filter the products that are featured on your website without appending anything or even changing the URL and leaves only the original category page. In case, you do not have an experienced Magento Developer beside you, this is going to be a nightmare. Yes, there are modules to help, but again without a decent developer, we suggest, avoid making this switch.

Prevent search engines from accessing the pages

Most of the times if websites face this issue, they opt in applying Meta robots rule in telling the search engines not to index the pages. Here, you can either use Meta robots tags or x robots tags for doing this and both meet the requirements for the removal requests from the Google Webmaster Tools and eventually serves the same purpose.

We recommend you use the noindex, follow tag, as this instructs the search engines not to index the pages, but continue in crawling the website.

If you are going to launch a new website, this will help in preventing the pages from being indexed and in case, you have a lot of pages, this will help in removing them (in GWT) or tells the search engines to stop indexing the pages, though this takes time.

This also can be achieved by using the MageSEO plugin which allows you n assigning the manual Meta robots rules and gives much better control over the canonical tags and also allows editing the robots.txt file from the Magento back-end.

Use the canonical tag

Basically the canonical tags were introduced to prevent issues like these, but they do not always seem to work with other solutions. You can try using the canonical tag on most of the occasions, but Google might overlook these tags and start indexing the pages on it’s own.

Yes, over time the canonical tag has gotten better and has been successfully been used with web analytics tracking parameters and has issue has been reported.

Even if you are using any other solution, suggestion is to use the canonical tags.

Another common problem with most of the sites, including Magento, is a duplication of the parameter-based pages. And, the most common occurrence within Magento tends to be the layered Category pages-when the attribute filter is active.

For example, you can try Google “site:demo.magentocommerce.com/apparel/shirts”

Google and the other search engines tend in treating parameter-wielding URLs as separate pages due to the vast amount of websites still using parameters to serve even their standard web pages so, (domain.com/?pageid=753 look familiar?).

As the content of the category pages differs slightly when the filters are active, you will not want Google to catch them as a separate page, especially if you have a lot of content in your category description. This duplication of the category description can lead to your duplicate content being penalized and imposed on your category page/website in general.

If you want to combat these problems, there are few ways, yes, some work and some do not. Personally, we suggest you use every trick if you want the desired result.

Apart from the canonical tag, the other important tricks are:

Robots.txt file

The robots.txt file has been basically around since the search engines have been around and is perhaps the most useful text file available on any website.

The main purpose these files execute is in letting search engines know which page is to be accessed and which area is not to be trespassed.

In fact, within the robots.txt files you can specify the search engines to ignore the parameters-based pages by simply adding this line:

Disallow: /*?*

For new shop owners

If you are a shop owner and have an online website of your shop as well, then these are the common Magento SEO issues you will face. If so, then these tricks will help you in configuring the most basic SEO settings for Magento.

You can manage these settings from the Magento administration panel as well.

The Magento Home Page – Title “home“

Often happens when a new shop launches, the homepage title is “Home”.

You need to fix this issue by giving your home page a better title name. A good title contains most of the main keywords, relevant to your business.

For example, Keyword 1 Keyword 2- Retail Store- your.storename.com

For this setting go to System => configuration => Design => HTML Head -> Default Title

The Default Description

Leave this field blank as it generates duplicate descriptions on each page where there is no Meta description written. For the category and product “meta descriptions” you can use the SERP editor and write clean and beautiful descriptions.

SERP editor link: http://www.mgt-commerce.com/magento-serp-editor-extension.html

While the default description can be found at: System -> configuration > Design -> HTML Head -> Default description

The Default Keywords

Do not use standard keywords like “Magento, Magento commerce”. If you are setting up Meta keywords for each product, CMS page and category, then leave this field blank.

In another case, where there is no Meta keyword set, get default keywords.

The default setting is as follows: System -> Configuration -> Design -> HTML Head -> Default Keywords

Turn on “index, follow“

Another common issue, usually happens when the shop is freshly released. Generally, recommendation is to use a sub-domain with an htaccess pass in the development stage.

This way you will get two big benefits:

1. You are not taking any risk for the search engine in finding your content before release.

2. You have time to setup all the settings that are required when the shop will migrate to the productive system.

The setting is as follows: System -> configuration -> Design -> HTML Head -> Default robots “INDEX, FOLLOW”.

Use Web Server Rewrites and Domain Name www vs. no www

First, decide how you want your domain name to look like.

Here are two options:

With www: http://www.your-domain.com

With no www: http://your-domain.com

Though both these options have no effect on your SEO rankings, but to have a shop that delivers content at the same time will mean getting duplicate content issues.

So, set your domain as follows: system -> Configuration -> Web -> Unsecure -> Base URL

Now make sure you do not generate duplicate content by delivering the shop pages with and without www at the same time.

For this enable this option: System -> Configuration -> Web -> Search Engines Optimization -> Use Web Server Rewrites on “Yes”.

Also check your .htaccess file for an automatic redirect.

Open your .htaccess file with an editor and add this line if you want to use “www” for all your URLs:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteBase /

RewriteCond % {HTTP_HOST} !^www.domain.com$ {NC}

Rewriterule ^(.*)$ http://www.domain.com/$1 [L, R=301]

And for no www

RewriteEngine On

RewriteBase /

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^domain.com$ [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://domain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Create a sitemap.xml

At times the shop owner forgets to create a sitemap.xml or is created with the samples of products and categories. To submit new products to Google & Co, a sitemap is important.

To create a sitemap follow this: Catalog -> Google Sitemap

Remember to double check your sitemap before submitting it to the Google Webmaster Tools!

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